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Tuesday, March 30, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 119

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Legislature acts on credit-cap, faculty raise proposals

House OKs changes to make credit limit more flexible

By Danielle Cooper
The Daily Texan (UT-Austin)

AUSTIN (U-WIRE) -- A bill to make the credit-hour limit more flexible and to apply it only to future students passed the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday and will become law if signed by the governor.

The legislation authorizes universities to charge out-of-state tuition for students who have completed 45 more hours than their individual degree requirements, replacing the 170 credit-hour limit for all students.

Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, agreed to House amendments to the legislation, including a requirement that students be notified of the limit.

Bivins proposed the changes to the 170-hour cap, which became law last session, because of unexpected difficulties faced by university registrars when implementing the limit, he said.

"The problem with the legislation that we passed is that it really didn't take into consideration the varying degrees and the number of special credit hours required for varying degree programs," Bivins said.

The change would allow students to be informed of the credit limitation when they are designing their degree plan, Bivins said.

The Senate also approved the Hope Grant program Thursday to provide $100 million in scholarship money to economically disadvantaged students in Texas.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, creates 20,000 Hope grants for needy students who complete recommended college preparatory classes and maintain at least a 3.5 GPA in college.

The scholarships would pay average tuition and fees -- approximately $2,400 -- for up to 150 hours, or six years, of coursework.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board estimates that available funds will provide grants for students with family incomes of $25,000 or less. Ellis said if more funds were appropriated, eligible family income could rise.

Lt. Gov. Rick Perry, an active supporter of the bill, said it would give economically disadvantaged students a chance to go to college, which is becoming increasingly important in today's market.

"The $100 million scholarship program says to our young people that the Texas dream is available to you -- whether you live in the barrio, on the border or in the suburbs," Perry said.

Sen. Carlos Truan, D-Corpus Christi, proposed and gained approval for an amendment to the bill that would allow all veterans to qualify to receive Hope grants.

The bill's original text would have only included veterans who served in armed conflict.

The bill will now be sent to the House for consideration.

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